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Volume 3 | Issue 4| July 2009 | 

by Sarojini Sahoo

Part I

No had the capability to put her curly hair under control. Her hair was swinging like flowers over the eyes, ears and nose. When Granny came home she used to get jada oil along with other tidbits. She sat on the rope stool and put the sticky jada oil and combed my hair with the comb made from horn. I felt I would die from pain. But granny would pat my back and repeat the saying- ‘the fur of the sheep and the oil from jada ’. She had seen one or two sheep amidst the herd of goats in pathansahi. They are not like the sheep found in Australia or in the Himalayas. They are the sheep from the coastal regions of Orissa. The one and half inch knotted fur looked real ugly on the dirty yellowish colour of the sheep. She felt sad thinking of her hair; because she could understand the meaning of her Granny’s words. Of course the hair got stuck together with the jada oil.

In the class our teacher told us that we must have heard stories about Dhruv, Prahalad and Shravan kumar. This was not true in my case. First of all, Granny never told old stories. Secondly not while I was going to sleep but while she sat down to comb my hair she sometimes told me some amazing stories, which made a mark in my innocent mind. Two of the stories I have never been able to forget. The first one was like this:

Some marhattas from the city came and plundered the whole place entering every house stealing and raping. Granny remained silent for a while. After a few seconds she would start; I was in the backyard; someone shouted- the marhattas are coming towards the village. Within few seconds the whole village was deserted. Everyone fled up to whatever place and hill they found. The cattle were still bound to their sheds. Rice and paddy, dal such as moong and black dal, money,- everything was left unattended. Even the seventy old Naliamma climbed up the mountain with a stick. The only person who could not go was the daughter-in-law of the gudiya household. How could she go? She had completed nine months. As soon as she heard about the marhatta invasion her pain started. Her parents-in-law, her husband and his brothers and sisters all left her to save their lives. No one cared for anyone or bothered to listen to anyone at that time. She had no time to cry; the child inside her was restless. She said: “Go why should you all give your life for me? When the marhattas come they will be satisfied with me”. In spite of saying such words, she gave birth to the child when she heard the tapping of the horses at the end of the village. Tears were dripping down. Pregnant for the first time she cut the chord with a shell. As she wiped the child and put him in her lap and was trying to sleep hordes of soldiers rushed into the village. The whole village was deserted. They banged the dishes in some houses and they puuled the thatch from others. Within a few seconds they were all around the daughter-in-law of the gudiya household. Eight to ten heavily built young men. They asked her- “Tell us where everyone is gone?” She was not able to utter a single word. Her whole body was shivering. She looked at them with wide open eyes. The leader of the group said- “What are staring at? Put the fire on; we are hungry. Put oil in pan. Fry the baby in your lap and feed us”.

The daughter-in-law of the gudiya household had just given birth to a son. She had not even held the child for a few hours. The child hadn’t taken to the mother’s breast yet. How the mother’s heart must be beating? She had lot of patience and lot of strength. She said – “If you want to eat the child sit quietly”. She held the child in her lap and started the fire. Soon the oil was hot. She stood up and with a ladle in her hand started spooning the hot oil from the pan onto the face of the soldiers. The soldiers fled the place screaming for their life. Granny used to say this happened when she was young.Had Parijat been a little older she could have understood that this incident was never possible because the atrocities of the marhattas occurred before granny’s birth. She did not have any clear idea about the marhattas then. She imagined that they must be like elephants, horses, tigers, lions or perhaps demons. Why else would they ask for human meat?

She could not disbelieve this story of Granny but the other story made her very sad. Her mind was full of disgust. As her granny combed her hair with the sticky oil she would massage her back and say this back is my golden back this back has got a son. After her birth the much desired son had been born in this family so her Granny thought her back is the golden back. She also used to narrate a short story about this. After praying for a son to various gods and goddesses when my mother had lost all her hope of getting a son my Granny heard of a tested formula for begetting a son and applied it on my mother. Once she picked up the worms from Parijat’s stool and hid it in a banana and gave it to my mother to eat. In the course of events my mother gave birth to the much awaited son and Parijat got a brother. The day she heard this story from Granny her mind was full of disgust. She did not want to sit with Granny to get her hair combed. She looked at Granny with a sense of disbelief. She felt her mother was betrayed. She really felt pity for her mother.

Part II

Two eyes wet with tears had haunted her since childhood. At dusk when the dirty bulbs emblaze she remembers those eyes. Then slowly the lady adorning a white saree with a white blouse aged almost over forty years appears in front of her. The lady’s voice disturbs her senses. The voice of the lady is so deep that it sounds as if it was drowned in deep water. She was very desperately saying- “Please give me something, oh mother of Rina, my children have been starving they have not had a morsel since morning”. She had a cloth bag in her hand. Her pleadings never reached my mother’s ears. The lady would sit on the ground and wipe her tears. After a while my mother would twitch her nose in disgust and say- “How can I give you everyday? You come over every evening begging. What do you think? No one has any work but to listen to you?”

The lady never got up or left. In rage my mother would bang the utensils or throw the broom she held. She used to leave the place thumping her feet without giving anything to the lady. She would roam across the house and come back to the lady and say- “Are you still there? Didn’t I say, there is no rice in the house? Where will I get rice?”

“Please give please, please give, oh mother of Rani; my children will die from hunger”. She would hold my mother’s hand and plead. Still my mother never gave in. Parijat could not accept her mother as her own. She wished she could go and get two to three cups of rice from the drum of rice and give to the lady, who was Sabita’s mother. She did not have the opportunity to know whether Sabita’s family was poor. Both Sabita’s mother and her aunt were widows. They looked more aristocratic than her mother because they were from the karan caste and always wore white saree with white blouse. The sight of their pleadings for rice before my mother was really pathetic. She felt her mother should give rice to the lady. They had bags and bags full of rice. They would not be short of rice if she gave a maan or two of rice. Every year one-fourth of the rice in the bags went into the holes of rats’. Pots and pots of cooked and leftover rice went into the cattle’s feed everyday. When she thought how the lack of a pot of rice can bring tears to a human she used to ask her mother- “Why don’t you give a maan of rice to Sabita’s mother? I did not like her mother leaving our house wiping her tears.”

My mother amazed me shouting out suddenly with her cracking voice- “What for? Is everything free here? I have five members in my own family. I am hoarding rice because I cannot boil paddy to make rice during the monsoon seasons. Why should I give to any Tom, Dick and Harry?”

It’s not that my mother did not give anything to anyone. The man named Giriya from the backward caste (paan) came over to beg for rice twice every week. As soon as he called at the gate my mother would send the bowl of rice with us, “Go, fast make sure he leaves this place as soon as possible” His eyes used to blaze like fire but his body looked as if the huge figure has lost its lustre with age. When I put rice into his bag he asked about everything- about my mother, my father, whether we are getting adequate sleep because our house was in the town and there were too many vehicles on the road. My mother never used to come out of the house. She used to say from inside-“Uncle, please leave now; why are you gossiping so much?”

Giriya paan would then get up lifting his long bamboo pole. As soon as I went inside the house my mother would ask me – “What was Giriya paan asking?”

“Nothing in particular; he was asking about you and father and stuff.”

My mother would get scared and ask- “Did you tell him that your father is not at home for the last two days?”

My mother was really scared of Giriya paan. She had the belief that Giriya paan is coming under the pretense of begging alms and noticing all the nooks and corners of our house. He knows where the gold, silver and money are kept; and when he gets an opportunity he would come and steal everything.

Giriya paan was from Parijat’s maternal uncle’s village. That’s why her mother used to address him as uncle. There was no fondness in that ‘uncle’ address; rather there was a sense of fear and persuasion- “Uncle, look I am your niece, we are born in the same village; you spare my family from your evil intentions.”

Parijat was amused. How can a beggar be a dacoit? If he was a thief why would he beg alms at every door? When she said this her mother narrated the story which sounded like a crime story. In his youth Giriya paan was a very ferocious dacoit. His terror was felt not only in his village but spread to the villages in the neighbourhood. Those were the days when kings ruled over the place. Kings competed with each other over both good and bad deeds. Once the king invited Giriya paan to the fort. Being a dacoit Giriya was scared to heed to the king’s invitation and tried to hide. So the king sent messengers with gifts and presents to Giriya’s place. Giriya was amazed. He went over to the king and pleaded- “Please forgive me”. The white sahibs were frequent visitors to the king’s palace. The king took Giriya inside and said- “Look Giriya, if you are a true son of a paan, then show your capability”. Giriya was restless. He could not imagine what the king wanted him to do. The king said- “If you can go to the fort of Madhupur and get the clothes from the queen’s bathroom, then you will be considered the son of a brave man. You will be known as a true dacoit.” Giriya boasted – “Is that so?”

True to his words, Giriya entered through the drains into the bathroom of the queen of Madhupur and with all cleverness got the queen’s clothes from her bathroom safely tucked inside a bamboo pole. He is aware of everything that is happening. He keeps his eyes and ears open to everything.

Even in that young age Parijat had the intelligence to point to her mother – “You give Giriya rice because you are scared of him; when it is Giriya you forget about finishing rice during the monsoon season but when it comes to giving rice to Sabita’s mother you are always short of rice. You are not a good person. My mother screamed out in her cracking voice- “What did you say?” Afraid of being hit by her mother Parijat ran out of the house and sat on the bench placed at the road-side stall. Her mind was revolting; her mind was full of hatred. Who was she revolting against? Why was the hatred?

Part III

Drops of blood fell into the toilet pan. The red blood on the white pan was creating amazing colours of dawn. The sight brought back that popular story to Parijat. The queen was absent mindedly making embroidery in the handerkerchief. The queen was unhappy because she did not have any children. The king was gradually getting old. She was so upset about not having any children that the thought of it made drops of tear fall down her eyes. Not only did the tears drip down but she pricked her finger with the needle due to her absent mindedness. She squeezed her finger with an ‘ooh’ sound. A red spot of blood shone on her finger tip. Slowly she let the drop of blood fall outside the window. It was winter; the whole palace was covered with snow which appeared just like soft cotton wool. The drop of blood fell from the finger tip. As soon as it touched the snow a wonderful colour emerged from the combination of red and milky white colour. The queen thought – I wish I had a daughter whose skin colour was like this. Just at that time a very kind angel was flying by. She flew down and said to the queen- “I am aware of your desire. You can have a daughter with the skin of this colour; but as soon as you give birth to the daughter you will be dead. Do you agree to this condition?” The queen was delighted. The beautiful girl will roam around in the palace like a small butterfly. What can be happier than having a beautiful daughter in exchange for a single life?
At one time such a beautiful girl had come to this earth in exchange for a life.

Unlike the queen Parijat was not enchanted to see the blood drops on the pan; she was not disturbed either. For some months now she was discharging blood. It had become a normal practice with her. She started avoiding the toilet because of this. Once Aravind told her, enough is enough; you must go and see a doctor. It is not right to let any illness last long for any reason. Aravind was so influenced with an article written in the newspaper by a doctor that he landed up at the doctor’s door with Parijat.

The doctor could write very complicated theories in simple words which could be easily understood by the layman. He proved with arguments that every illness was half physical and half mental. Adding these to his qualification, they arrived at his house in the afternoon. The doctor was taking rest at that time. That day the doctor had already finished his schedule to meet patients. Aravind said- there is no time limit for doctors. I have bunked office today. It won’t be possible to bunk office again tomorrow.

Aravind pressed the calling bell. After a while the doctor himself came out of the door. A huge middle-aged man. As he looked with a questioning glance and before he could ask anything Aravind said- “Are you Doctor X?”


“She is my wife”. Then he described about her illness from beginning to end. They went inside and occupied two chairs.

“What did you say? Pain in the under abdomen? Pain in the back? Blood all over the pan? Alright. Let me check”.

Aravind was told to sit while Parijat went inside. The doctor lighted the room by turning on the light. Parijat lied down on the inspection table after climbing over the two-stepped ladder.

“Yes, a little towards the top; don’t sleep; kneel down”.

She knelt down.

“No not like that; on your kneels like a four- footed animal”.

This time she went down on her kneels like a four-footed animal. Doctor X started checking. Her muscles started stiffening out. Afterwards she thought- she is a patient which means she is an object of research. The patient’s caste, religion, sex and age does not matter, neither does the doctor have any caste, religion, sex, or age. Doctor X moved his hand towards the switchboard and the light above the inspection table was turned off. Parijat’s sixth sense informed her Doctor X is not God. He is also slave to the senses of eyes, ears and nose. His hunger and thirst is immense. There is no element of discretion in his choice just like a wayward cow. She stood up before any unpleasant incident occurred and walked towards the room where Aravind was sitting and pushed open the slightly closed door with force.

Aravind asked her- “Did the doctor check you?” The doctor turned on all the lights of the room and opened the door wide as he sat down at his table. Aravind had no choice but to ask the doctor about Parijat’s health.

The Doctor replied: “The patient is very sensitive. Aravind smiled and said: “She is a woman - that’s why”.

Doctor replied with disgust from a blown up nose: “Yes, woman or something else”.

Aravind was surprised and looked at Doctor X. The stomach with six inches of fat; the dyed hair smeared with oil, the clean and clear feminine cheeks- prompted the word – “Disgusting”. She stuffed her mouth with the end of saree and grew impatient to leave the place.

Part IV

As it is the children turn into caterpillars during that time. There is no question of choice or preference. No mention about hunger or the absence of it. They can eat everything. As soon as the bus stops they get down with their water bottles and go straight into the restaurant. After washing their hands in the wash basin, they occupy a table and order food. Both she and Aravind sit as nonentities. They order food according to their choice. They get different kinds of food such as chicken, naan, matar paneer. The restaurant is inside the bus stand- a real place for fast food. A dusky boy with a dirty dress pours water onto the greasy steal glasses from a dirty plastic jug and puts them on the table. The water bottles brought from home lies beside the children. They drink the water of the restaurant with pleasure. Drops of sweat accumulate on the tips of their noses. The noses start running. They eat with utmost contentment. They keep on eating even if they are full and not in a condition to eat anymore. At last, they get out of the restaurant with handful of paanmahuri; no sooner had they taken a round or two of the bus stand they insist on buying cold drinks. By that time there is no space left in their stomach; they take a sip or two from the bottle and leave the rest in the shop. After that they want to eat into the magazines standing in the bookshop. As they return from the book store with all kinds of magazines starting from movies to sports, the chocolate and toffee displayed in the plastic jars attracts them. They never forget to buy a few toffees. Every time the same routine is followed. Whenever the children go to the village they become like caterpillars. The doors of the bus don’t open even after all the demands of the children are met. The bus keeps on standing like a dumb king. The driver, cleaner and the conductor of the bus let every passenger get down from the bus one by one and then they lock the bus and disappear. Eating and drinking comes to end. Going to the toilet is over. Roaming around also comes to a stop. Still the door of the bus does not open. The passengers roam around the bus like flies because there is no place to sit. Legs start hurting. The body starts paining still the bus stands still like a hermit.

On that occasion all the mischief of the children had come to an end. Eating, drinking buying magazines – nothing was left. They were roaming around like flies as an old man appeared. I don’t remember who the old man turned to first. I don’t remember who among them nodded his head and said-“No”. The old man did not leave their side. Aravind moved slightly and everyone followed; even the old man. Aravind said in a loud voice- “Go from here”. The old man did not go.

The son said – “Papa, please give him”.

Aravind did not put his hand into his pocket. Parijat did not open the chain of her purse. The old man’s thin hand kept on pointing towards them like a stubborn child as if it would create a hole in their world comprising of four lives. Aravind was irritated: “Can’t you hear? I told you go from here. Get lost”. Aravind moved further ahead. Everyone followed him; even the old man. The old man appeared very sick. His hair was curly and looked like jute. The legs were black and the blood vessels were protruding. The eyes looked as if they belonged to a dead fish. His feet were hard like the cow’s hoof. The son said – “Please give him”.

The pleadings of the son may have given some incentive to the old man he went on nagging- “Babu, please give me, please give me” and touched Aravind.

At that moment Aravind screamed- “Get lost from here, you scoundrel” and lifted his leg as if he wanted to kick the old man afar like a football. Instead of being afraid of the ferocious look of Aravind everyone was full of shame as if the all the people present in the bus stand had come to know of his meanness. First the son slipped away to a distance. The daughter followed him. The old who was in the verge of crying said – “Want to hit me? Alright, hit me, hit me”.

Aravind was not repenting for his action. Parijat wanted to leave that place. The vice of the criminal Ratnakar is his own. “Disgusting” came out from her mouth.

Aravind asked her with concern- “What happened?” Parijat did not answer. The look on her eyes expressed her hatred.


After science has solved every mystery as simple child’ play questions remain as to why do the raindrops drizzle from the sky? Why do the waves beat every moment? Why do countless sperms run down through dark alleys? She kept on pondering. Why do living beings die? Why does the sun rise? Why do desires control your life like grass even after they are rooted out? Does God never tire out? Why does the wind ever rest? Why does the mother never forget the loss of her son till her death?

Sometimes these things happen. When she sits alone she gets drowned in fog? Does not know if it is cloud or fog? Everything looks hazy. At a distance a blue safari is seen. She forwards her hand. Her hand swims in the clod/fog.

She can’t touch the blue safari suit. Gradually she notices the man who has put on the blue safari suit. She recognizes Aravind. Just like a drowning person holds onto a straw she wants to cling to Aravind. Two drops of tear has already gone into her ears. The hand that swims in emptiness clutches onto Aravind. She wipes her tears and asks: “What happened? Are you in severe pain?”

Two other people are standing next to the bed. Aravind asks : “Have you got back your senses?” By that time she had comeback from the world of cloud and fog. She is able to understand that she is lying in one of the beds of the nursing home. On the bed nearby a girl was sleeping. The girl must be fourteen or fifteen years old and had put on a frock. She had a saline on her. Aravind asks the man next to him: “What has happened to the girl?” The woman sitting next to the feet of the girl starts crying aloud. Both Aravind and Parijat are shocked to hear the cry. Aravind tries to maintain decency and does not ask anything else. The matter does not end there. Aravind collects information about the girl from somewhere. He bends down to Parijat’s ears and says – “The girl was pregnant at just fourteen years of age. One of her distant maternal uncle made her pregnant. The father had threatened to slay. In the process of aborting the pregnancy from native herbs the child had died and rotten inside. After the girl became seriously ill they brought her here. It has been three days since and the girl has been discharging pieces of rotten flesh.”

Parijat closed her eyes out of fear. She could feel pain in her stomach and wanted to vomit. She got up from the bed for two to three times intending to vomit.

Aravind moved his glance from the girl and set his eyes on Parijat. He patted her back. He moved his fingers on her hair and worriedly ran to the doctor. Tears from Parijat eyes had entered into her ears. A nurse came and asked her if she was suffering from any pain. Aravind came back with some capsules for alleviating the pain in her stomach. She was supposed to remain in that bed for only two hours. Time flew in the fog, with the pain in her stomach and the curiousity about the girl.

Before leaving the nursing home she wanted to go to the toilet. When Aravind wanted to hold her hand and take her to the toilet she said- “I am alright. I am feeling well now. I can walk on my own. You wait.” Aravind left her hand and waited for her outside.

As she came out of the toilet her gaze went onto the basin of the commode. On a white tray there lay soaked in blood, a fetus four to five inch in length. It was sleeping like a godchild. Eyes, ears, nose, legs, hands not even sex was clear. Even then it looked as if it had just come out of an egg. The fetus was silent like a sage. Don’t know why, but her heart started to burn in pain as she saw the fetus. She wanted to lift it from the tray and clasp it to her heart. She did not want to leave it on that tray and go home. Someone was knocking on the door of the toilet from outside. As she opened the door of the toilet and came out she came across Rukmani, the old maid of the nursing home. She told her, “Babu sent me to check fearing that you have fallen down in the toilet”. Then she changed the context and said- “Disgusting. What are you doing? Get an operation done soon.” After she heard the old lady’s advice uttered in an irritating tone like a superior, Parijat did not have the courage to ask- “This godchild lying on the tray, is that my creation”.

Parijat left the place before she could hold the godchild next to her heart and address it as “my dear’. She left without asking for forgiveness with her head down. She started hating herself for this unforgivable sin of her life. She condemned herself- “Disgusting, what are you doing?”


Green under the nose, eyes bright and nose sharp – this was how her appearance was when her son moved away from her and said- “Disgusting, you smell awful”.

“I smell?” Parijat smiled. “Good or bad?”

“Disgusting, go from here”, said her son. She looked at her son and realized that he was not joking. But why did she smell so bad? It was winter. So there is no question of sweat. As it is she does not sweat much even during summer. Till today she was under the impression that even her sweat did not smell that much. According to Aravind a sweet smell emanates from her body. Aravind is often enchanted with her sweet smell no matter whether she is awakened from her sleep or just come out of the kitchen. Parijat has often tried to smell herself but has failed to find the sweet smell.

Her son’s complaints were gradually increasing. Finally it so happened that when he saw Parijat approaching he would slip away to a safe distance. Parijat started putting powder; she started using perfume but still her son never came near her. She started feeling sad about it. This led to frustration and subsequently to fights. How everything changes. She could not fathom. From then on when she saw her son she would squeeze herself and stand in a corner. On the dining table she avoided sitting next to her son and sat on a chair away from him. More she constricted more she felt angry and sad. She would cry and tell him: “You are a part of my body; you have been made from my bones and blood. Look your nose is exactly like mine. Your smile is like mine too. We are similar. I feel sad when you despise me. You will never understand how disturbed I feel when I come in front of you”.

Her son would soften his tone seeing her tears and say: “Please don’t cry. Please don’t feel sad.” But he could not change his attitude. He kept on maintaining the distance as usual. Aravind used to say – “This is a new drama”. “Let me see” he would say and like a dog sniffs around he would make a sound and smell my whole body and say-“Where is the smell?” Parijat thought Aravind would say- “There is a sweet smell coming out of your body”. But he did not say that. She used to feel sad but she came to realize that her body no longer smelt nice. Does the bad smell mean old age? Her grandfather used to smell funny. She could not describe how it was like. Yet it was just like an old thing. The same smell comes out when you enter the Kedargauri temple.

Grandpa’s body was getting old. Grandpa used to walk four kilometers to come to our house. His toes used to look red and swollen just like the nerves in his legs. He was unlike the grandpa in storybooks. He never used to tell us stories. Far from telling stories he never even spoke to anyone. His eyes looked starchy and innocent. He was so thin then when he sat his skeleton would bend and looked just like the English letter ‘G’. Almost every time he came to Parijat’s house she would be getting ready to leave for school. Her mother would be busy in household chores. Without making any sound Grandpa would sit in their drawing room after taking out the slippers made by the cobbler from tyres. They were neither happy nor sad when Grandpa visited them. Only they used to scream so that their mother could hear that Grandpa was there. Her mother never left her work and ran to meet him. Grandpa used to sit and read whatever he laid his hand on be it newspaper or paper bags. He could read the small English letters in the newspaper even without glasses. As Parijat braided her hair she would go and put the kettle of morning tea on the fire of the mud oven. As she finished braiding her hair on both sides the tea used to get hot. Grandpa would be reading the paper bags without uttering a single word. Parijat would go and place a cup of black tea in front of Grandpa without uttering a single word. Grandpa would gulp the bitter tea without making a face. Since it was not yet time to leave for school Parijat would to go her mother and say- “Maa , Grandpa is here.”

“Let him be there”- her mother used to retort back without any interest.

Parijat used to get angry with her mother and say – “Why are you answering like that? Your father is here.”

My mother used to mutter angrily – “If he runs to my house time and again because he wants to take his pills, where will I get money to give him?”
Parijat would get irritated with her mother and say – “Talk softly. He can hear you”.
My mother would suddenly scream and say – “Why are you showing off? Go and fetch the two rupee- note tied to a corner of my wet saree drying on the rooftop and give him”.

It would be time for Parijat’s school. She would run to the roof top with heavy steps. She would get the two-rupee-note tied to a corner of her mother’s wet saree and give it to Grandpa. Grandpa would not say a word. He would put the money into his pocket. He would sit for a while. He would leave putting on his slippers made from tyres. Parijat would feel like revolting against her mother. Her mother would appear heartless. But she could do nothing. She would leave for school, resting her books to her chest.

In a similar way her son did not like many things about her - her rounded and healthy arms; her way of giving opinions on everything like a wise person; her habit of murmuring songs to herself in the bathroom and kitchen. Parijat could not please her son by putting on an ordinary saree; she could not feed on stale food; neither could she pretend to be an innocent woman from the village. He preferred a mother like Yasoda to Jijabai.

My mother used to say that Grandpa was an irresponsible father. He has not done anything in his life. He was involved in the fight for freedom of the country. Grandma used to do everything right from looking after the lands and the men working in the lands to collecting rents from the tenants. The country became free. Grandpa did not do anything; neither service nor business. Neither did he look after his lands nor did he take part in politics. He spent his time drinking. He used to ask Grandma for the money received from rents and blow them away in drinking. Even though he used to drink he was never ill-mannered. He would drink and come back and sit with Grandma in the kitchen. Even the members of the extended family sharing the same courtyard never used to know when Grandpa came into the house or when he left. Gradually as Grandma was not able to move she could not look after the field or manage the labourers working in the fields. She could not collect rents from the tenants and all the houses in the town had to be locked. Grandpa took to opium and gave up drinking. Grandma died. Grandpa did not even have money for opium.

Parijat was not aware when Grandpa had started asking for money from her mother. But whenever he came to their house both Parijat and her mother could understand that he needed money. As soon as she saw Grandpa her mother would start getting irritated. Was Grandpa as worthless to her mother as she was to her son?


Parijat was getting pulled without being aware – just like a dry piece of wood being washed away by the force of wave or may be like a flower falling off from the tree. She was thinking about right and wrong, vice and virtue. How and under what circumstances under what pretense, and whether it was auspicious day or a dreadful one, she could not fathom how it all happened. She was swimming further and further away from her place of origin. When she was in the middle of the river she realized she has a family, she has children, she has dreams, and she has happiness as well as miseries. How can she give up her world at this time?

She was against her world without realizing it. Parijat was absentminded. When her son came back with a bruise on his knee with an accident on the bicycles she did not say – ‘oh’ out of pity; neither was she perturbed nor did she run hither thither. As if this accident had a place in the list of events that details the good and bad things of life. Aravind came back from office with a fight with his boss. She did not go to him to offer any consolation. She did not give a long lecture on the importance of mother tongue and mother land when her daughter failed in her literature exam. She was thinking of something and getting excited. She wet her eyes out of frustration. She had something which was her very own, very secretive which no one else could get any trace of. She felt she was getting younger. She loved watching herself in the mirror.

She said “There is no difference at all between love and spirituality. Both of these things make you disenchanted towards the world. Both these things rest on intense madness. The desire to become one is prevalent in both these things. The road leading to both these things are crooked and never straight. Both these things embody similar entities and experiences”. Aravind used to laugh at her words and say “Are you in love? Are you contemplating the idea of doing a research on ‘love and spirituality’? Is your limits only till love or are you up to any action? You may become the second Ose, who knows?”

Parijat did not give any response to Aravind. But Aravind did not keep quiet. Once he said- “Your cheeks are looking pink these days”. Parijat replied - “What rubbish! At this age, the skin dries and starts shrinking”. Aravind would say – “How amazing, you don’t have your irritating habits any more. Surely something has happened…….”

Parijat used to get scared. Is Aravind suspecting anything? But why? Parijat is spinning around like a top for his family. She looks after everyone. She does not even have a moment for herself. When she used to analyze all these things she felt that this secret liaison was even more meaningful and valuable. She wanted to treasure this relationship with care.

Once Aravind appeared very sweet. He touched her everywhere lovingly. Parijat looked at him with surprise. As he talked about many things that had happened between them he said – “Don’t think that I don’t trust you or don’t feel bad that I am asking you this. Everything is possible in this life. Can anyone control accidents? We have become dependent on each other after living together in a family for such a long time. Is it possible for anyone to leave? So even if something has happened never ever contemplate the idea that we will leave each other. I am only curious to know- Do you have anyone other than me ……….. I mean with someone?”

It would have been different, had Aravind asked me straight instead of all these words. As Aravind was trying to show that he was a gentleman, she was wondering whether it was right to tell him the truth. At this moment the door bell rang and Parijat left the place to open the door just like it happens in the climax of a drama. The neighbour had come and was sitting in the drawing room. The children had started arriving one after the other. That day that incident ended with that.

The love of that day was not there the next day. Aravind changed his countenance to gather information just like loving a small child at one moment and slapping him in the next. The stored suspicion inside him took the shape of irritation; they started fighting over trivial things. Parijat tried to make her presence as insignificant as possible. As if she had become an untouchable and despicable prostitute. Sometimes she thought she would tell him everything. But she could not understand how to say, where to start from. Should she say that as soon as night falls, her mind gets excited, she gets perturbed. After everyone goes to bed, he comes in the depth of the night with soft footsteps. The smell of his body enchanted Parijat. The whole house starts smelling. He comes and stands near him. He kneels down near her bed and caresses her lips. As if drunk Parijat lends her face, hand, and feet and then submits herself completely to him. She would expand herself in a loving way. The beat of the wall clock reverberates to her rhythm. Her mind and body goes from a state of sheer pleasure to one that of intense pleasure. She had not experienced such pleasure in all her long married life. She feels as if her life would have been worthless without him. Before he leaves she clasps her lips to his pushing her tongue inside. She sucks in the thin lips. Night gives in to dawn in such pursuits.

Sometimes her mind gets disturbed even before it starts getting dark. She feels maybe he would not come that day. And as thinks that he will not come, tears start welling up in his eyes. She remembers the incidents of the night before and her navel starts wheel-winding.

But will Aravind have the patience to listen to all this? A few days passed as Parijat was pondering over whether she should let Aravind know these things. All of a sudden one day she felt that there is no need to hide, she should tell him. At least she will get some reprieve from the tension. Aravind laughed as he listened to everything. The next moment he was serious and said – “Psychic!”

They used to say the same thing about Rina Mahanty when they were in college. Rina lived as her room-mate in room number twenty three in the ladies hostel. She was not like Parijat or her friends. She used to remain quiet and serious all the time. She used to spread white sheet on her bed. On that clean bed she would keep a one and half feet statue of lord Krishna lying on his three-dimensional leaning posture. She never sat on the table while studying. She always studied on the bed. At night she would sleep next to the statue of Krishna. She never used to say anything about her relationship with Krishna. The girls used to address her as Meera behind her. The girls from the other room used to ask Parijat, “Please tell us, does she really sleep with the statue of Krishna?”

She never went to the dining hall to take her meals. She would spread a sheet of plastic on the bed and eat as if she and her Krishna were eating together. Rina’s love for the lifeless statue gave her pleasure and it surprised her as well. This love affair with a lifeless statue was ridiculous after watching the lively couples in front of the ladies hostel. Rina had only shared a few secrets with her during the two year long stay with her in the hostel. One of them was that she would never get married. She had got everything that one gets from marriage. She cannot see any reason to get married.

She used to think Rina was psychic. Other girls thought she was half-mad. Just like after listening to everything Aravind announced that she was psychic. She did not know what Aravind thought of her but he wanted to know more and more about her lover. Every morning as he got up from the bed he would ask – “What all happened last night?”

Generally he did not come every night. So, often Parijat would reply - “No, he did not come last night”. He used to ask things like – “How does her lover look like? What do they talk? What things does he prefer?”

Apart from Aravind there is another man in Parijat’s life. They accept this new relationship as a very natural arrangement. Nothing unusual happens. On the contrary, Aravind gets incarnated as the lover and Parijat gets excited to accept the new Aravind as the lover.

When everything appeared normal, Aravind’s satirical remarks, or may be the soft words between them or maybe from the youth-like agility of Parijat, her daughter sensed the presence of someone else in their family of four. She was always vigilant to know about him. When the postman delivered letters, she would examine the address to check if the handwriting belonged to any man. When the phone rang she would secretly pick up the parallel receiver and try to listen to the conversation. In spite of everything she could not find out who the fifth person was, who breathes in the house and who has the right to enter freely to her parents’ bedroom.

One day Parijat noticed that there was water in her moisturizer. Some one had squeezed the face pack tube; the lipstick had been smudged and spoilt. One by one all such incidents occurred. She did not find her pearl necklace after looking everywhere. She noticed that someone had cut a big piece from pure silk saree. She was upset and cried; but still could not find the culprit. She did not understand why but she had the strong belief that her daughter was behind these actions. The reason behind this belief was her daughter’s behaviour. Her daughter’s attitude towards her was slowly changing. She had blunt answers for everything. She defied every instruction. She would knowingly do things that Parijat did not approve. She would get irritated for no rhyme or reason. This made her realize that her daughter was angry with her. She had already used improper words on more than one occasion. She told her “You think I don’t know anything. Do you realize, I know everything about you?” Parijat used to get scared at her words. There are many secrets in a human being’s life; things that cannot be shared with anyone; that has to remain secret till death. Those secrets get buried or get burnt with the body after death. What secret does her daughter know? Parijat feels a little subdued.

One day her daughter told her –“there is a big black circle around your eyes; you look like a ghost”. Maybe she wanted to hurt her or she said that maybe for some reason. After saying the words she satirically laughed at her. Parijat could not forget her daughter’s laughter. Her attention kept on going towards the mirror continuously to look at the black circle around her eyes. Her daughter watched her very carefully and realized that Parijat was pained with her remarks about her face. So maybe to further irritate her or may be to hurt her she said, “Your skin is loose and you look like an old woman. Really, how dark you have become.” Once she picked up a white hair from her hair and flaunted it in front of her eyes and laughed.

She was breaking into pieces at these words of her daughter even though there was no exaggeration in her words. Sometime as if she wanted to take refuse Parijat would say- “Yes my dear, I have become old.” Even then her daughter’s anger would not subside. But why was she angry? What was her fault?

One day she asked her daughter – “Please speak out whatever complaints you have against me, just say them openly. I cannot tolerate your behaviour anymore. But remember, my life is mine and your life belongs to you alone. I will not interfere in your life neither will you in mine”. Her daughter remained serious for a while. Then she said, “Disgusting”. Parijat asked: “What is the reason behind your hatred?” Her daughter replied angrily – “I am telling you, don’t irritate.”

(Translated by: Gopa Naik)









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